A new school year is soon upon us. While it is an exciting time for the kids, it can be down-right stressful for parents. Children with food allergies are faced with the threat of (unknowingly) being exposed to the very items that will make them sick.
Parents of these children have a lot of homework and preparation to do before they can safely let their child attend school.
I reached out to my friends who have children with anaphylactic allergies. Together we compiled this comprehensive list of resources: how to educate caregivers about food allergies. This year you WILL send your child with food allergies to school safely!
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Ask the school these questions:
- Find out about their meal and snack time routine and policies.
- Does the school have any children with anaphylactic food allergies?
- If they DO: What are they currently doing to accommodate those children?
- If they DON’T: Do they know what it is and do they understand the severity?
- Do they have food restrictions, i.e. peanut free school/ classes/ tables.
Allergy mom’s comments:
- I prefer for the school to already have children there with severe allergies, so I know they are educated and equipped to handle it.
- I love it if the entire school was “peanut free.” Although my son doesn’t have peanut allergies, I can rest assured that they realize how serious exposure to airborne food allergens can be.
- I look for the Principal and teachers to show genuine interest in learning about food allergies and a willingness to not let it define my child.
Before starting a new school (year):
- Send the school a letter addressed to the Principal/ Director and a separate letter to the teachers or caregivers. (See example of this letter at the end of this post!)
- The letter outlines his specific allergies, severity and what to do.
- Set up meetings with the teachers BEFORE he starts in their class.
- Explain his allergies and the severity face to face.
- SHOW them how to use the Epi pen and the dosing instructions on Benadryl, which is left in the front office.
- Inform them that you will ALWAYS provide his meals and that he cannot eat ANYTHING that was not sent from home.
- Ask that his seat at the lunch table is wiped down before he sits down – every day!
- Offer to buy the class snacks your child can also enjoy.
- Provide them signs for his cubby and lunch box storage with the specific allergies.
- Ask the teacher to let you know ahead of time if the class is celebrating with food, so you can bring an equivalent treat for him.
- Remind them that he is just a kid and although he knows he has allergies, he sometimes gets upset and sad when he can’t participate like the other children.
- Meet with the office and nursing staff.
- Educate them on your child’s allergies and the protocol in place of how to treat him in case of exposure or symptoms.
Instructions in case of symptoms or suspected exposure:
(these change depending on your child’s specific allergies and severity)
- As soon as you notice HIVES give Benadryl immediately.
- Do NOT call the parents first, time is of the essence.
- Call the parents after Benadryl has been administered.
- If breathing is labored and throat is closing give Epi pen and CALL 911.
- Have someone contact the parents ASAP, but addressing the child’s needs is a priority.
- If another child is in distress, feel free to use your child’s Epi pen as a second, because sometimes two doses are necessary.
Send these to school:
- AllerMates Black/Gray EpiPen Case
- Two of the talking Epi pens: Auvi-Q. (It walks the person administering through every step. This is perfect in schools since you never know who will have to administer.)
- Dosing instructions.
- Complete list of allergies
- Parents’ and Allergist’s contact information (Click here for a Printable Contact Card)
- Post signs in the cubby and by the lunch box storage with the child’s name and allergies.
- These Allergy Alert Labels are incredibly effective, bright and durable!
- Attach these AllerMates Allergy Bracelets to the lunch box with the applicable allergies.
- Make sure he wears a Child Medical Alert Bracelet at ALL TIMES.
Educational resource for teachers and staff:
- Educational website for teachers and school staff.
- Informative 30 minutes course.
- Training programs and resources for teachers and school staff.
- POWERFUL video .
Sample letter to the school:
(Feel free to copy and personalize for your own use)
Dear _________ School,
Our child _______ has (SEVERE) Food Allergies that we would like to bring to your attention. He/ she is (severely) allergic to the following; _____________________.
His/ her allergies are so severe he must carry an Epi-Pen and Benedryl at all times, which we have left with the front office in case of an emergency.
It is important that all Teachers and Staff at ______________School be aware of ________’s allergy and that he/ she not come into contact with any of the food that he/ she is allergic to, especially __________ products.
We will always be sure to provide him/ her with plenty of meals and snacks for the day. I realize it’s tough with many children enrolled at ________ School, but he/ she cannot share food with anyone or eat/drink anything that we didn’t provide for him/ her.
We will always provide his/ her own bib; he/ she should never wear a bib that another child has had on in case there are any leftover food products on it. His/ her seat at lunch should always be wiped down from the last child to prevent cross-contamination of food.
I know these are extra steps that need to be taken, but they will save his/ her life. His/ her reaction is anaphylactic and extremely severe.
If _________ ever comes in contact with one of the foods he/ she is allergic to and starts to get hives, he/ she should be given Benadryl immediately. Please contact me and my husband/ wife AFTER administering the medicine. If the Benadryl seems to be working then the Epi-Pen may not be necessary.
If at any point after the Benadryl is administered, his/ her breathing becomes labored then the Epi-Pen should be administered. We will need to take him to the emergency room right after.
Please always call one of us as soon as possible. If we are unable to be reached, please contact our other emergency contacts or 911.
With all of this being said we truly want our child to enjoy as normal of a childhood as possible. We just ask that you are careful.
If you know of any celebrations coming up where special treats will be given to the children let us know so we can send something in for him/ her to participate in the festivities. We will keep extra snacks and cookies in his/ her backpack in the event cupcakes or cookies are given to the other children.
We are thankful for the love and care he/ she will receive from everyone at _________ School and look forward to a wonderful school year. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.
These labels from Mabel’s Labels are incredibly durable, even in the dishwasher. I personally use their regular labels to put our kids’ names on everything.
What tips can you share with other parents?